Briefly: Anika is the third most popular girl at school. In order to keep her position, she has to put up with the whims and barbs and outright ugliness of the most popular girl, Becky Vilhauer. Because if she didn’t, she’d have no one. Not even her real best friend, Shelli Schroeder (#2 most popular) who would have to stick with Becky unless she wanted to suffer the same ostracism and friendlessness that would be their misfortune.
Though Anika is popular, it doesn’t mean she enjoys it. Sure, the alternative is pretty bad, but wouldn’t you be full of “spider soup” if your father was a highly educated vampire who expected you to get into an Ivy League school even though you are living with your mother, stepfather (the Ogre) and a variety of steps and real siblings who mostly torture you, all while in the middle of Nebraska. While Becky constantly calls you “immigrant.”
Then Logan McDonough, nerd deluxe, makes quite an entrance on his moped at school. He’s now all hot, not looking like his former self at all, and when he arrives, he locks eyes with Anika. Crap. Anika is not allowed by Queen Becky to even look in Logan’s direction, much less entertain any crushy thoughts about him. But once Logan convinces Anika to let him give her a ride home after school, they form a friendship that turns into something more. Then something bad happens, and Anika does not know how to handle it.
And…?: Sometimes you read about books that supposedly have a “snarky” main character, and it just doesn’t pan out. Ms. Portes easily captures the sarcasm of a teen who has a lot of serious issues to contend with. Anika compartmentalizes her family, her friends and her life, labeling everyone without looking past those labels. Not wanting to rock the popularity boat, she deals with that by having a ruthless inner monologue that takes no prisoners. Like most teens, however, there’s something beneath that; and she uses humor and deprecation to try to push those things away. The shallow and the deep swirl together, eventually exploding to a very real and very painful conclusion.
Anything Else to Mention?: Initially, some of the snark seemed overused and too much. The story either settled out or I got used to it, because it ended up being what saves you. Without giving too much away, there are dark happenings here wrapped up in a cushion of derision; and by the final pages, you will wish you’d never left those funny confines.
And to be honest, I thought a lot about who the “misfit” was in this book; and while I assumed it meant the protagonist, it could have easily been a label for several other characters as well. Maybe it refers to anyone who feels different or like they are hiding their true selves as well as someone who just doesn’t fit in.
To Read or Not To Read: You should always temper happy ending books with ones that are darker and less happy; neither style is more or less real, but they help to balance you out. This story attempts to be both all by itself, though, in the end, it still has to choose sides.
Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes was published September 2, 2014 by Harper Children’s. Ink and Page picked this book up from the library, so everybody wins.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary Romance
Ages: 13 and up
You Might Want to Know: Mature themes regarding sex, profanity, drinking, drugs, abuse.